The world of red wine is a rich and wonderful world filled with everything from a gentle South African Merlot to the peppery richness of Sangre de Toro, Blood of the Bull from Spain. In general, many of the rules of wine drinking have been cast aside in today’s world, making it more accessible, and with the increased demand, supply has soared, allowing for inexpensive and very delicious wine readily available to all.

Still, there are many who feel that the world of wine is overwhelming. With so many wines to choose among, where do you begin? How do you properly enjoy a red or white and with what meals would they be best matched ?

Let’s look at some very basic tips to maximizing your journey into red wines.

Don’t spend a ton of money on a bottle of wine. Leave that for later, once you’ve explored the brands and varietals that you like. There are so many wonderful and delicious wines that are available at a price range of $20 to $30 a bottle.

Stick with a varietal, for now. In other words, pick a wine that is primarily made from one type of grape, i.e. a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc. Try to avoid blended reds to begin with, though they can be quite delicious. By learning the flavors of the varietal grapes, you’ll better understand what it is about the blend that you like.

Reds like to breathe. Open the bottle and let it sit for ten minutes to an hour depending on what it is. This allows oxygen to get into the wine and allows it to open up. For that matter, pouring the wine into the glasses and allowing it to sit for ten to twenty minutes accelerates this process. You’ll find the flavor is much more enhanced by this approach.

Reds at room temperature and whites are generally chilled.

I mentioned earlier that many of the rules of wine loving have been discarded, or at least loosened, such as red wine with red meat or pasta and white wine with fish or poultry. While these are not bad guidelines, they really are not carved in stone and nowadays waiters will not turn up his/her nose at a guest who asks for a red with fish or enjoys a nice, tart Chardonnay with a burger.

Merlot with what? While a Merlot can be a perfect complement for a spaghetti meal (particularly if you have a nice buttery garlic bread), it can easily sit beside a pork chop or fried chicken dinner. A Merlot is a lovely, non-pretentious start to your journey and should open the door nicely to a journey of wine loving.

Good luck and enjoy!